A Bibliophile’s Farewell To Borders

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - May 18, 2011
| Del.icio.us

“Last 6 Days” ... “Store Closing” ... “70% to 80% Off List Price” ... “All Sales Final - No Returns” ... “For Sale: All Fixtures, Furniture, & Equipment.”

Familiar signs in recent years. We’ve seen Circuit City empty out its big box stores in the Hawaii, so too CompUSA and Tower Records: all victims of over expansion, the digital revolution or market saturation.

For the past few weeks the “Store Closing” signs have been draped over the Borders Bookstore in Waikele, one of 262 Borders store closures announced under the Michigan chain’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. In their February filing, Border’s accountants listed $1.28 billion in assets, $1.29 billion in debts. In attempting to balance their books, they’ve turned off the lights in four of their Hawaii stores.

The shuttering of Border’s Waikele store struck close to home - literally. Its Waipahu address was 10 minutes from my home, a couple minutes less from my place of employment. I was one of the bibliophiles who crowded the store on its opening 18 years ago.

Everybody smiled that day. Border’s had brought us a book lover’s dream: a big, comfortable store with the largest selection of books outside of a college library, a coffee shop it called its own, wrap-around leather chairs to sink into, and a huge CD collection that went far beyond heavy metal and rock-and-roll.

I’ve always loved bookstores. I break out in hives before the bins of screws and nails in a home improvement center, and big box electronics stores leave me close to idiocy. As in, “What’s a pixel?” And, “Microsoft 20 ... what?”

But, ah, a bookstore. That’s my comfort zone. Amid shelves of history, biography, literature, politics and assorted other subjects - just keep me out of those shelves of computer manuals - I am a happy man.

Particularly at Borders Waikele. It became a place of refuge for me. When the two adolescents who resided in our Pearl City home became unbearable, I’d grab my car keys and head for the front door.

“Where are you going?” my wife, aka the high-strung Filipina, would ask.

“Borders,” I’d reply, rushing now, and leaving the poor woman to handle the situation alone and at a decibel level I could not endure.

A cup of coffee? Why not drink it at Borders while browsing through a stack of magazines? A rainy Sunday afternoon with nothing in the theaters save vampire and transformer movies? Borders again. An evening when sleep threatens during or right after the 6 o’clock news? Browsing at Borders will keep you up until at least 9.

A colleague of mine who resides in Manoa admitted to me that he had “bonded” with Borders Waikele rather than the chain’s closer Ward Center store. I wasn’t comfortable with that word at the time, but it certainly came to describe my relationship with the place.

Over the years, I left an embarrassing amount of my disposable income in their cash registers. But it was a fair trade - Borders helped define my neighborhood and, I suppose, my life.

Borders Waikele shut its doors Saturday night. Kindles, Nooks, Amazon, corporate headquarters, and the slow but probably inevitable death of the book did them in. As the “Store Closing” drapery appeared, I had trouble going near the place. It made me sad.

I made my last Borders run six days out from closing. The denuded shelves hurt my heart, but they still offered bargains. I found six volumes of history and two on current events at $2.99 each. At the cash register they applied $5 of the Borders Bucks I’d “earned.” Total price: $10.50.

The receipt informed me that I’d saved $119.91. What a deal. But somehow it felt like buying a dead man’s suits at his funeral.

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